Today

Written April 16th, 2016


 

Today I am thinking about good things and bad things. Good days and bad days. I am thinking about how the seemingly smallest things can bandage big problems, like how poetry and getting a cat helps my sister cope with her daily struggles. I am thinking about how today, April 16th, I saw my mother in Philadelphia and ended the day with a text from my dad informing me that my grandmother, my Nana, had finally entered hospice care after two months of on and off hospital stays.

Objectively, I had a good day. I saw my mom, who I see less than one time a month. It was a beautiful day in Philadelphia– warm and cloudless but not overwhelmingly hot. I showed her around the city and we went to do some tourist-y things like visit Reading Terminal Market and the Liberty Bell (which I had never seen, despite living in Philadelphia for almost a year). The park was beautiful and the walking conditions were pleasant.

When the car rolled out of sight I totally hid my tears behind my sunglasses.

I don’t have the answer to why some things affect us the way they do. I wish they didn’t and I wish I knew.

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My One-Woman Battle to Fact Check the Internet

It may seem hypocritical, considering just yesterday I told my mom I wasn’t going to do anything about a problem I have because “I don’t want to cause trouble,” but I’m generally not super concerned with pissing people off. Even people I like. What I mean by that is that I will certainly correct someone if they’re wrong, or try to force them to think more critically about something. I will publicly call you out if you’re doing it on the internet, too. I’m sure this makes me come off as an insufferable know-it-all.

Recently, it feels like my social media feed is an endless stream of  my personal mission to correct the internet. Fruitlessly, for sure, but I can’t seem to help myself. I just can’t stand by anymore and let blatant ignorance go.

I may be just 18, but I’ve spent at least 6 years as an active member of the internet community. I’ve reached old-lady status. And man am I a grumpy old lady. The me of years past would likely stay quiet, and sometimes I do, but nothing gets me more riled up than spreading false or biased information to people who (should but) don’t know better. I realize this is a strange and impossible cause to have, especially because I’m not exactly the activist type.

(The other day I sent a text saying “I can’t wait for the primary to be over so I can be FREE!”)

But the truth it, I think being measured on the internet is so important. Too important to let it go. How we retain and process information affects our worldview, and this sometimes lead to sides that are “right and “wrong.” The only “correct” way to view the world is complexly. More often than not, things are much more complicated than we are led to believe. The way to combat this is through developmental critical thinking. That’s something the internet needs more of.


Hey! Want to read other things I write? Like big long essays and critical analyses? Check out my Medium page, then. Thanks!

Art Gang ASCO

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You know the stereotypes: all you Hispanic American kids are in gangs. They ride around East LA with their guns and their colors, contributing nothing to society.

Surprise surprise, not everyone agrees with that stereotype.

ASCO was an art collective active from between 1972-1987. They were a bunch of artists, kids really, living in LA. They’re (more or less) associated with the Chicano art movement, although they certainly focus more on contemporary Chicano culture rather than pre-Columbian stuff. The core group was four friends: Harry Gamboa Jr., Glugio “Gronk” Nicandro, Willie Herron, and Patssi Valdez.

They were performance artists. They were provocative. They didn’t give a fuck.

ASCO were the stuff of dreams for me when I wanted to go to art school and be a real artist. Young people are constantly told that their ideas are invalid, and frankly, by the time I was a high school senior I was just done with art conventions. I wanted to do whatever I wanted– things that weren’t pretty or technical. I wanted to do things that were purposefully incomplete or ugly– things that inspired asco, meaning to inspire nausea.

As the story goes, Harry Gamboa Jr. was at the LA County Museum of Art, and upon finding no Chicano artists, went knocking on doors. He was told that Chicano don’t make art— they were in gangs. So he and his friends (after a youthful bout of minor vandalism) decided to start ASCO– an art gang.

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Which– is just so cool.

Their weapons weren’t guns or knives, they were their bodies and images appropriated from the media. ASCO, like Cindy Sherman, staged fake film stills, trying to sell the representation they forced as reality, sometimes even trying to get the media to show their fake crime scenes.

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I think a lot of young people can take a lot away from ASCO. They were kids, yeah, but that didn’t stop them from fighting against “the Man” for fair representation. Frankly, the whole teen-rebellion bit is pretty romantic.

The Sparrow // Review

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. Published 1997 by Ballantine Books. 431 pages

This book came out 18 years ago– the year I was born. Many people, much more eloquent than I have written and talked about this book. I’ve been trying to decide how I should approach reviewing older novels, especially popular ones that many people have probably read. The conclusion I came to is to give my impressions and focus less on plot– so I won’t stress the details. 

I’ve been on a collision course for a long time. It’s the favorite novel of someone’s whose opinion I trust, and my copy technically belongs to my sister, who first read it for her Freshman year honors course three years ago. When I told her I was reading it she said “you are in for a ride.” So I did know some things beforehand, but the suspense functions best when not much is said.

Matthew ten, verse twenty-nine: Not one sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.”

But the sparrow still falls.”

The novel defies categorization. Some elements are soft science fiction, something close to Ursula LeGuin, but much of the thick of the plot is character based– relationships and internal struggle. It’s about language and understanding and perceptions and relationships– between Emilio and God, and the host fantastic supporting characters. 

And yes, God is a large part of the novel, but it’s much more of a meditation than a dogma.

Terrible things happen– it’s not a spoiler to say so. But finding the context, and going through the same emotional journey as Emilio makes the core of the novel.

The more negative reviews of this book claim that the inevitable tragedy is underwhelming. I can’t help but think those people missed the point a bit. The Sparrow is a novel about personal tragedy, especially in the case where a person is undone by something they held dear. In the case of Emilio Sandoz, it’s his relationship with God. It resists becoming torture porn so well.

Not everyone gets a glorious death.

 

Make Your Dreams Come True

Wow! Imagine when my surprise when I went to look at my stats and saw an unpublished draft– you know, that thing I meant to post on Friday. Cue resigned sigh.


 

Hey Abs, see you missed another post. Yeah, I know. I’m sorry! April is just a totally busy, stressful time of the week. Next week I have a project, a presentation, and a paper due three days in a row. I’m trying here.


On Monday, I got accepted to my dream school. Second time’s the charm, right? I’m a current college freshman, not a senior in high school. I applied as a transfer from the university I attend now, in Philadelphia. As a matter of fact, I applied to my dream school last year but go wait-listed.

Applying was an incredibly stressful process. Being a freshman is already stressful enough, being homesick, adjusting to a new place, trying to find friends, and balancing workload with activities. It cost a lot of money, money that I didn’t really have, had to scramble to get a form sent in at the last minute, and then I just waited. For a month. While everyone around me was finding places to live next year and registering for classes. I was totally committed to going somewhere else.

But, hey, turns out it was worth it.

Transferring is a hard process to describe, especially to the people around you at your current school. There’s a lot of “it’s not you it’s me” going around. It’s not the school– it’s the city for the most part. I actually love the program and my friends, but I need to be closer to home.

And there’s the fact that I could never quite let my dream school go.

I take my education very, very seriously. I worked hard and got accepted to a school I was wait-listed at in high school. I had the fortune to be supported by my mom and my closest aunt who encouraged me to follow my dreams. Even though the new school is much more expensive than the old one.

When I came to the decision, sitting in a lunch place with my mom, I was so scared.

I made my own dreams come true. Please, be brave enough to take a risk on yourself. Say, “I deserve this.”

Belonging

It’s part of human nature to want to belong. Even the people who stand out and don’t give a fuck about who and what or anything want to find a person who understand them. A common tribe. Some people don’t really notice this but are drawn to do certain things or go certain places by some otherworldly force. Other people call them safe-places or happy places.

One of the hardest things for me about living in Philadelphia is that I distinctly feels as though I don’t belong here. There are very few comfortable places for me to be. My room, clearly, but also perhaps the tech center, where I do all of my writing. But does that count is I spend the entire time plugged in, ignoring the rest of the world even exists?

Then the other day I went into the art building, where I have one class, for the first time. I felt a strange longing being in there, that my life was suddenly missing an essential part I didn’t even notice before. It’s strange, unsettling. Especially in a time in life where I am trying to make big, life changing decisions. Maybe it’s something I should pay attention to, but maybe it’s also just an unnecessary complication.

Does a sense of belonging develop over time, or is it a feeling you just get, that you just know?

Cities I’ve Never Lived In // Review

Cities I’ve Never Lived In by Sara Majka. Published 2016 by Graywolf Press. 192 pages.

I totally read a short story collection after saying I never read short stories. I know.

cities20ive20never20lived20inSara Majka’s collection of stories is a wonderful little debut about attachments and unattachment, small magics, and ordinary lives. It’s about love, and distance, and the miles we put between ourselves and the things we desire. I didn’t realize this when I bought it, but it literally had just come out (it was only published in paperback).

Majka’s stories are beautiful and melancholic, like the spring rain or autumn sunset. To keep up with the metaphors, the collection is like an abstract painting; each story is another hazy layer adding to the meaning. There’s the author, Sara, the painter, then the persona of Anne who is the narrator for many of the stories and is emotionally recovering from a divorce. Finally, there are the few stories that Anne tells– it’s implied that the character herself is a writer.

“The world opens immeasurably. She would have felt it like something opening inside her.”

I found the collection to be lovely. I may be a bit biased, because many of them are set in Maine or other parts of New England. I found she captured the feeling of New England melancholy perfectly– in a way it felt like coming home. Her prose is subtle and unadorned in a way that everything speaks for itself. It reminds me a bit of the classic the House on Mango Street, which I read in highschool and really, really loved. I wouldn’t go so far to say all of the stories fall into the category of magical realism, but some of them flirt with its edges and have a mysterious quality to them.

“What they must have thought of him, though they probably didn’t think much about him, just thought of him as a permanent thing.”

I don’t think this collection particularly stands out. But then again, I don’t think it means to.

Favorite story: Boy with Finch
Up next: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell